THE TOBACCO LEAF carved into the speaker's rostrum of the US House of Representatives the cash crop that financed the American Revolution—symbolizes a product to which the federal government has paid homage for more than 200 years, says Rep Chester G. Atkins (D, Mass). At the recent World Conference on Lung Health, Atkins and a host of other speakers called for an end to such adulation.
"Tobacco money explains the reluctance of Congress to tolerate any regulation of tobacco," adds C. Everett Koop, MD, former surgeon general of the US Public Health Service. It also accounts, says Atkins, for the moral climate that recently allowed the US international trade representative, Carla Hills, to decide "for the fourth time in four years... that cigarettes are a harmless commodity."
However, this is an attitude that must be abandoned in view of the health threat posed by the golden leaf, Atkins says, insisting: